Britons urged to check now as 860,000 due council tax refund – are you owed £174? | Personal Finance | Finance
An investigation by the Money Saving Expert (MSE) revealed today that those in England, Scotland and Wales could claim a total of £150.2million back from their local councils. The site submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 364 local authorities across the UK asking how much money was owed in overpaid council tax. The investigation found that 38 local authorities were each holding more than £1million in council tax refunds. Birmingham City Council were holding the most with almost £5.4million.
The next three spots were taken by London councils with Tower Hamlets having £4.8million, Sutton having £3.8million and Enfield having £2.9million.
There were three council’s identified in Scotland as having over £1million to claim with Glasgow council holding the most with £2.4million.
Overall, the amount of council tax owed sat at £40million in London, £37.5million in the South West and East, and £9million in East Anglia.
The Midlands owe £20.1million, the North West £12.8million and the North East and Yorkshire £12.9million.
Wales has £6million and Scotland £11million.
The MSE stated that four council’s refused to disclose the data citing a risk of “increased fraudulent behaviour if they were to do so”.
These council’s were the London Borough of Islington; the London Borough of Southwark; Durham County Council; and South Lakeland District Council.
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A further 15 councils failed to respond or disclose any of the data requested following repeated requests from MSE.
The MSE states that councils usually have this money due to people moving out of the area after already paying the council tax bill upfront.
In most cases council tax is paid in advance, including for those who pay monthly, and, if someone fails to close their account or doesn’t pay by direct debit, the council may struggle to refund automatically if they’ve moved.
This means the account will likely be closed in credit.
Gareth Shaw, deputy editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “While many councils do make an effort to track down those who have cash lying unclaimed, they are still staggeringly sitting on £150million worth of overpayments.
“You’re less likely to have overpaid if you use direct debit, but it’s not impossible, so if you’ve moved home, it’s worth checking if you might be due – especially if you changed local authority area and paid by cash, cheque or standing order instead.
“Each council has its own way of processing claims, but some have an easy online form.”
Mr Shaw stated that people should not just “call on the off chance you might be due”.
He recommends people do a little bit of digging first so as to not “clog up councils’ switchboards for those who need essential and urgent support”
Mr Shaw suggests people check their previous statements and bills to see if the council tax they paid upfront covers a period after they moved and if they closed the account in credit.
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The MSE said that setting up a direct debit is one of the “easiest ways” households can help reduce their likelihood of overpaying on council tax.
Paying this way also makes it easier to reclaim refunds if they are due.
This is because councils will have the bank account details on their systems, making it easier to automatically process refunds for overpayments.
But households are reminded to cancel a council direct debit and close the account if they are moving to an area covered by a different local authority.
If people believe that they are owed money then they can call, email or live chat their council.
However, the way in which a person can claim back the money will depend on the council in question.
This is because some councils offer a simple online council tax refund form to complete.
However, council’s doing this will be asked to provide eligibility evidence for any backdated claims.
The councils with the smallest tax overpayments were Bristol City Council with only £3,000, Dundee City Council with £4,268, and Richmondshire District Council with £4,553.
Contact details for all Local councils can be found on GOV.CO.UK.